👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Bipartisan congressional negotiators reached an agreement on a $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to address the coronavirus. The deal – more than triple the size of the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion request – provides more than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, $2.2 billion for the CDC, $950 million to support state and local health agencies, $836 million for the National Institutes of Health, plus additional spending to address the coronavirus overseas. The bill is expected to be sent to Trump’s desk by the end of the week after passing both the House and Senate. (Washington Post / CNBC / Politico / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
A 10th person in Washington State died from coronavirus. In total, 28 people in Washington State have been diagnosed. (Seattle Times)
Local health officials in California announced the state’s first COVID-19 death, bringing U.S. fatalities to at least 11. (CNBC)
2/ Trump blamed Obama for making it harder for his administration to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. While it’s not entirely clear what “decision” Trump was referring to, he called it “very detrimental” and claimed that it hampered his ability to enact widespread testing for the virus. Health experts and government officials during Obama’s presidency, however, said they were unaware of any policy or rule that would have affected the way the FDA approves tests related to the current crisis. (New York Times)
3/ A coalition of 19 states are suing to block the Trump administration’s diversion of $3.8 billion from the Pentagon to the border wall. The states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin – argue that redirecting money already allocated by lawmakers violates Congress’ appropriation powers. The states also argue that diverting billions from defense programs “will cause damage to their economies, harming their proprietary interests.” (Politico)
4/ The U.S. conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan days after signing a historic peace deal. Taliban fighters were reportedly “actively attacking” an Afghan government checkpoint. The drone strike – conducted as a “defensive” measure – came hours after a call between Trump and Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. After the call, Trump said: “We’ve agreed there’s no violence. We don’t want violence. We’ll see what happens.” (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)
5/ The Justice Department charged a Defense Department contractor with espionage. Mariam Thompson, a linguist who worked for the Pentagon, allegedly shared classified information with a Lebanese national with ties to the terror group Hezbollah. The information included details about intelligence assets working for the U.S. and military personnel. If convicted, Thompson could face life in prison. (ABC News / Politico)
6/ Trump mocked Mike Bloomberg after the former New York mayor ended his presidential campaign, tweeting that “He didn’t have what it takes.” Bloomberg endorsed Joe Biden, saying he got into the race “to defeat Donald Trump” and was “leaving for the same reason.” Trump also accused the Democratic Party of having “crushed” Bernie Sanders, attributing Biden’s win of at least 380 delegates to “a perfect storm.” Trump then called Elizabeth Warren “so selfish” for staying in the race while accusing her of being “the single biggest factor in the election” and “badly” hurting Sanders. (CNBC / Politico / CNN / Washington Post)
The Trump campaign abruptly shifted its attacks from Sanders to Biden as some Trump backers worry Biden could present an obstacle in swing areas. (Politico)
Trump taunted Jeff Sessions on Twitter after his former attorney general was forced into a runoff election for the Alabama GOP Senate nomination. Trump tweeted that “this is what happens to someone” who “doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt.” Sessions faces a March 31 runoff against Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn football coach. (Politico / Bloomberg / New York Times)
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